From Fr Greg's Desk


It has come to my attention over the last few weeks that a number of you feel that the child protection and safeguarding measures being asked of our ministers and volunteers are excessive.

This is what is currently required of all our volunteers:

  1. Maintain a valid ‘Working With Children’s Check’ (WWCC)
  2. Fill out the Archdiocesan ‘Code of Conduct for Working with Children’ form
  3. Fill out the Archdiocesan ‘Volunteer Registration' form
  4. Complete the Online Safeguarding Induction Training (‘SALT’), which shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes of your time.
As the Gospel tells us, we all need to “read the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3) in order to discern how we as a Church are to act. It is hard for me to imagine that such minimal requirements be excessive in light of the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse and some recent high profile legal cases. In fact, there have been reported incidents in recent times in other parishes involving volunteers which have been brought to our attention.

The Royal Commission itself highlighted many areas where change is urgently needed in our parishes, and one of the key areas identified was in the recruitment process of volunteers. They have produced recommendations for all entities engaging with children to be followed, as well as specific recommendations for the Catholic Church. In addition, they have produced the ‘10 Child Safe Standards’ which all religious entities must follow.

Not only does the Catholic Church in Australia have to meet the Royal Commission’s ‘10 Child Safe Standards’ but they also have to comply with the ‘10 National Principles for Child Safe Organisations’ which is monitored by the Office of the Children’s Guardian, and the ‘10 National Catholic Safeguarding Standards’, which has been developed by Catholic Professional Standards Ltd. We have been informed by the Archdiocese of Sydney that parishes must comply with these standards and principles, as we will be audited in the near future on our compliance.

Part of complying with these principles and standards is ensuring that volunteers be given a basic understanding of Safeguarding and Child Protection measures, and that all our volunteers be made aware of the expected behaviours they need to display around children. The Archdiocese of Sydney has developed the Online Safeguarding Induction Training (‘SALT’) to help provide our volunteers with a basic understanding of Safeguarding. The Archdiocese has also developed the ‘Code of Conduct for Working With Children’, which provides workers within the Archdiocese with knowledge of the expected behaviours that are required when working with children.

As Parish Priest, I need to ensure that our parish complies with these standards and principles as well as the Policies and Protocols set out by the Archdiocese of Sydney. All three priests at the parish have had to undergo five full days of training to get us up to speed on these requirements, and our office staff and key personnel are also required to complete at least one day of training. I have to ensure that the volunteers in this parish have been provided with appropriate Safeguarding training and knowledge, and that we are complying with the Policy and Protocols of the Archdiocese. I can assure you that none of the documentation that has been provided to you is unnecessary. These documents are all part of the changes we need to implement to help keep the children and vulnerable safe, both in the Archdiocese and in our parish.

If anyone wants to discuss this with me further, I am more than happy to do so. If you do not possess a computer or have access to the online course for whatever reason, we would be happy to provide this to you. However, I cannot change the mandatory requirements that are now in force for all our volunteers throughout the Archdiocese of Sydney. I assure you that we are not taking the matter lightly, nor should anyone who wishes to continue work in any ministry in the parish, regardless of whether or not they specifically interact with children.

I am glad to see that our Ryde-Gladesville Catholic Parish is moving towards a positive safeguarding environment and that we are doing all we can to ensure it be a positive experience for our volunteers.

Your brother in Christ’s service, as always,

Fr. Greg